Piston Slap: An Indistinguishable Ball of Rust?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap an indistinguishable ball of rust

Mike writes:

Good morning Sajeev.

Ask (for Piston Slap questions) and you shall receive. You are under no obligation to publish this assuming you receive more interesting material. Thanks for doing what you do.

You may remember me as one of your fellow Lincoln Mark VIII enthusiasts. The sway bars rock, and for now, I’m still running the OEM HIDs in my 2nd gen, hoping you find an aftermarket solution you deem adequate, and spread the word when the time comes. Although I do now own a pair of Doug’s delrin adapters, just in case.

But this isn’t about that car. Oh yes, it’s the Panther!

I am the proud owner of a 1986 Lincoln Town Car, that I bought in 1997 with about 160k miles on it. It now has 330,000 miles on it and the Minnesota winters have not been kind. This has been my do-all vehicle, as well as my winter vehicle, for a number of years now. It is equipped year round with snow tires. I tow with it, I haul lumber in/on it, it takes me canoeing camping, and bicycling. Or it did until a couple weeks ago, when I blew a brake line.

That in and of itself would not be a big problem, but here is my concern. Last winter, all of the fuel lines went. (send, and return.) they’ve since been replaced. Everything underneath the car is a large, indistinguishable ball of rust. The power steering leaks. Badly. The transmission is reluctant to engage after coming to a stop sign in cold weather (until things warm up.) I guess I’m just at the point where I wonder if it is time to let this one go. The mid ’90s Town Cars can be had for 2-4 thousand on craigslist locally, or if I really want to go crazy, I could get a loan and pick up the W12 Phaeton I’ve been eyeing up..

I am leaning strongly toward dropping it off at the shop and let my mechanic so he can at least take a glance at it. We have an understanding. If he tells me to “run away!” I will. If not, I Assume it will be a couple hundred bucks for a new line from front to back. that’s still better than a couple thousand for a new used car with “unknown” problems. But in the end, I’m still driving a rusty, ’86 Lincoln. At least when the next thing breaks, I still have my trusty ’72 Jeep Commando as a backup.

Why yes. Those *are* 8′ 2x4s in that last photo…

And if you ever find yourself in Minnesota, I’ll buy you a beer.

Sajeev answers:

I do quite enjoy talking to a member of the Lincoln brotherhood, so it’s all good. I still need to make my old-to-modern HID conversion adapters. One day I’ll get them machined and ready to sell. It’ll never make money–which is depressing–but I probably have no other choice. Because these cars were (almost) the first to have HIDs in the USA (a few 7-series BMWs from 1994-ish did have them) I really want to do the conversion for all of us…but there’s no time right now. Damn these labors of love!

Anyway, about the Panther…the indistinguishable ball of rust, as you so eloquently mentioned.

Cars in this situation are ticking time bombs: at some point it will be painfully obvious that it’s time to move on. I am not entirely sure you have reached it. But you will. I suspect a large rust hole in the floor board or a failing DOA gearbox (AOD, get it?) is in your future. Probably not your near future, but it’s gonna happen.

When will your Town Car die a rusty, crusty death? Whenever it does, I will be watching this video and will pour one out for a fallen automotive soldier.

And I’ll do my best to sing “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city” without offending Mr. Bobby Bland. Because this Panther most certainly did you right, son.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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  • Tassos The EQS is the best looking BEV, better than even the only Tesla I would ever consider (the S) and more luxurious inside etc etcThe self driving features will come in handy when I'm 110 and my eyesight and reaction times start to suffer.But that's four decades away, and only Tim recommends 40 year old "used cars"
  • Tassos "Baby, Baby light my fire!""Oh God please give me a Kia Forte" --Janis Joplin
  • Tassos The fugly looks of any Subaru, and especially the non-sporty non-elegant, fugly, low-rent looks and interior of the WRX are alone a sufficient turnoff to never want to own one.One can be a 100% car enthusiast but ALSO demand a beautiful AND luxurious vehicle one can be truly proud of and which makes one very happy every time one drives it.The above is obviously totally foreign to Subaru Designers and managers.Αnd who cares if they sell all they make? this is 100% worthless bragging, since they hardly make ANY. ALL of Subaru's models together, all dozen of them, sell less than the top selling Toyota or Honda or even Tesla sells. ANd furthermore, if you have the intellectual horsepower to understand it, bulldude, which I am 99% sure you sure as hell do not, it is NOT about the sales units, it is not even about the sales revenue.It is all about the P R O F I T S.Am I going slow enough for you, bulldude?
  • Thehyundaigarage Am I the only one that sees a Peugeot 508?
  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.